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Early-stage dynamics of metallic droplets embedded in the nanotextured Mott insulating phase of V2O3

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.100.075111 DOI Help

Authors: A. Ronchi (KU Leuven; Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) , P. Homm (KU Leuven) , M. Menghini (KU Leuven; MDEA Nanociencia) , P. Franceschini (KU Leuven; Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) , F. Maccherozzi (Diamond Light Source) , F. Banfi (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore; Université de Lyon) , G. Ferrini (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) , F. Cilento (Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste) , F. Parmigiani (Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste; Università degli Studi di Trieste; University of Cologne) , S. S. Dhesi (Diamond Light Source) , M. Fabrizio (Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA)) , J.-p. Locquet (KU Leuven) , C. Giannetti (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Physical Review B , VOL 100

State: Published (Approved)
Published: August 2019
Diamond Proposal Number(s): 16128

Abstract: Unveiling the physics that governs the intertwining between the nanoscale self-organization and the dynamics of insulator-to-metal transitions (IMTs) is key for controlling on demand the ultrafast switching in strongly correlated materials and nanodevices. A paradigmatic case is the IMT in V 2 O 3 , for which the mechanism that leads to the nucleation and growth of metallic nanodroplets out of the supposedly homogeneous Mott insulating phase is still a mystery. Here, we combine x-ray photoemission electron microscopy and ultrafast nonequilibrium optical spectroscopy to investigate the early-stage dynamics of isolated metallic nanodroplets across the IMT in V 2 O 3 thin films. Our experiments show that the low-temperature monoclinic antiferromagnetic insulating phase is characterized by the spontaneous formation of striped polydomains, with different lattice distortions. The insulating domain boundaries accommodate the birth of metallic nanodroplets, whose nonequilibrium expansion can be triggered by the photoinduced change of the 3 d -orbital occupation. We address the relation between the spontaneous nanotexture of the Mott insulating phase in V 2 O 3 and the timescale of the metallic seeds growth. We speculate that the photoinduced metallic growth can proceed along a nonthermal pathway in which the monoclinic lattice symmetry of the insulating phase is partially retained.

Journal Keywords: Antiferromagnetism; Electrical conductivity; Entropy; First order phase transitions; Magnetic phase transitions; Martensitic phase transition; Metal-insulator transition; Phase transitions; Photoinduced effect; Solid-solid transformations

Subject Areas: Physics, Materials

Instruments: I06-Nanoscience